Walking Tour Of Downtown Boise Highlights Its Historic Past

May 19, 2016

A group of dedicated historians and preservationists are working to educate people and protect downtown Boise’s historic architecture, one weekend at a time.

The non-profit group Preservation Idaho has started up weekly tours of the city, called WalkAbout Boise.

Preservation Idaho has been around since 1972. It started as “The Friends of Old Buildings.” For the past 12 years, they've run architecture walks around the city, giving a tour of a specific neighborhood. The desire for more historic walking tours has turned into a tour, every Saturday, which looks at the history of downtown Boise through its buildings.

Amy Pence-Brown is with Preservation Idaho. She’s one of the historians that gives the tours each week. She says downtown Boise is filled with historic buildings, which have been converted into restaurants, night clubs and other businesses. She says the want to share the hidden history of those buildings, by telling their stories.

“We walk by these buildings hundreds of times or drive right by them or sit there and eat food at them and never really know about those stories, so we are glad to tell them,” Pence-Brown says.

The tour looks at over 30 buildings that tell the history of Boise, including immigrants, businesses and community. The tour explores the gold rush, Boise's Basque and Chinese communities, the Statehouse, Boise City Hall and the Egyptian Theater.

Each of those buildings has a story behind it, like the Turnverein Hall at 100 S. 6th Street. It was built in 1906 and has a fascinating past.

Most recently, the hall has been the home of the China Blue Nightclub.

The Turnverein Hall as it looks today.
Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Pence-Brown says the WalkAbout tour educates people about why a building is important architecturally, historically, because someone important lived there, or because it’s the only one of its kind in the whole state. That’s important because the mission of Preservation Idaho is to preserve Idaho’s historic places.

“The more people we have that are knowledgeable about the structure and its history, and care about it, the more chance we have of making a difference and saving things,” says Pence-Brown.

Preservation Idaho hosts the WalkAbout Boise tours every Saturday morning through October.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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